‘What do you DO?’ is the most frequently asked question when it emerges in conversation that I am a volunteer at Our Lady’s Hospice. How to answer? I usually ask ‘How long have you got?’
Many volunteers have organised lives so they arrange a certain day and time which they give to the Hospice and can be relied on to be there and take care of the appointed task. These stalwart volunteers are an integral part of the organisation and contribute hugely to the life style and comfort of the patients.
I, on the other hand, do not have an organised life. Whether I am lucky or unlucky that nobody outside is making demands on my time, I am free to spend a lot of it in Harold’s Cross and as a result I have enjoyed many diverse tasks.
When I first joined in 1998 it was at the beginning of that year’s Light up a Life campaign. This has always been the biggest of the fundraisers and has now grown to become a really huge event. With others I open post, take phone calls, fill orders for Christmas cards, ornaments etc., enter data on the computer, meet the public in the run up to it and on the day – hectic and immensely satisfying! The annual Coffee Morning demands similar attention, taking and filling orders and even sometimes helping to deliver packs.
Other fundraising campaigns – Sunflower Day, Women’s’ Mini Marathon, Spring Raffle, Annual Trek (in some interesting foreign spot) the annual summer event Little Flower of Life (at Blackrock Hospice) and the many individual events the public are kind enough to run for the hospice – need organisation and support of one kind or another and volunteers can usually assist.
Away from the fundraising office I have entered information on computers, worked with reorganising files and made up information packs for new patients. I’ve also helped in the Library, the Coffee Shop, given hand care at the Day Hospice, distributed morning teas or coffee in the Palliative Care Unit, traced information in the archive, helped with weekly accounts and, more recently, helped a little in the Heritage Centre .
I love it all and consider myself so lucky to be a very small part of the organisation.
My time is spent in a great environment, I meet and have made friends with lovely people, I’m occupied and, hopefully, of some small use.
The Bingo Group
Adrian Beirne, John Breheny, Bernadette McKeon, Eileen Goodwin, Pauline Maguire and Marie Louise Bermingham
Volunteer Eithne Wynnes started the Bingo group 12 years ago and the group has continued ever since, every Thursday at Anna Gaynor House with our Extended Care Unit residents. A lovely connection has developed between volunteers and residents over time, singing, playing piano and playing Bingo together.
Pauline Maguire has been volunteering with the Hospice for 15 years and with the Bingo group since it began 12 years ago. Having lived in America and volunteered there, Pauline wanted to continue volunteering when she returned to Ireland and found a good fit with the Hospice – ‘I just love being with the people here; they’re so appreciative of anything we do and the staff are too. I think it’s important to feel you have a purpose in life and doing this, I do feel that.’
Eileen Goodwin, like many of the volunteers at Our Lady’s Hospice, had a family member who passed away here and wanted to give something back through volunteering her time; ‘I like how you get to know the people here and build up relationships with residents. I’ve also made friends with the other volunteers so it’s not a duty; it’s a pleasure to be here! I think there is a nice peaceful atmosphere, it’s good for the residents and it’s good for us too.’
John Breheny had a friend who was looked after by the Hospice 25 years ago and he was so impressed by the care his friend received he decided that when he retired he would give back by volunteering. That was 10 years ago and John has been here ever since helping in the wards and with the bingo group. ‘This is the residents’ last home in this world and it is important to make that the best home it can be for them. I think the volunteers get a lot of praise, but I feel great respect for the care work assistants who do the real work of caring day in day out, so I try to do as good a job as they do in caring about the residents. When I first arrived here, I thought I would be helping in palliative care but instead I was sent to the Extended Care Unit. I didn’t know how I would get on, but to my surprise discovered I had a natural bent for it. I didn’t know that about myself! I would say to anyone thinking of volunteering the only way to know if it is for you is to give it a try – everyone is different but you might find something you’d never considered before would suit you, like I did.’
The Secret Garden – Marymount Ward – Bernadette McKeon
When my family had grown up and moved out, I found there were only so many things I could do in the house, I was bored and wanted to get out and do something! I love helping people and decided to see if the Hospice needed volunteers – that was 8 years ago and from day one, it has been a great experience. Every Friday I visit the Hospice to help patients in Marymount Ward with volunteer John Breheny. After I’d been there a while and got to know the staff and residents better, Chris Gavin one of the care workers in the ward asked me to help with a garden she was creating on the patio for residents. We started working on it when it was just a bare patio. Since then, we’ve planted flowers and shrubs in pots, we’ve decorated it with lights and ornaments and we’ve had window boxes made so that residents in bed can see the flowers through their window, even if they can’t come outside. We also have a seating area with parasols where residents like to meet and talk – sometimes it’s hard to get them to come back inside as they prefer to sit there than in the Day Room! I enjoy gardening and it’s nice to just get stuck in and help where help is needed. I usually bring a little bag of my gardening tools with me and leave it over the wall into the patio when I’m on my way up the drive to the Hospice, then I pop in to do a bit of watering or weeding after I have finished on the ward with John. It’s great to see how it has come on over the years – it makes such a big difference to the residents’ quality of life and they also enjoy getting involved, helping to plant bulbs for spring etc.
Music and Song
Over the years we have been privileged to meet so many wonderful musicians and singers who have generously volunteered their time to entertain the patients and residents in Harold’s Cross and Blackrock. Whether it’s classical, modern, popular, ballads, sing-alongs, choirs, ukuleles or individual performers the enjoyment music brings is visible in the tapping of feet, clapping of hands and swaying to the rhythm of the melody. Music evokes memories, happiness, sadness but above all pleasure and we are indebted to those who bring their talent for the entertainment of others. To quote Shakespeare ‘if music be the food of love, play on’ – and what a joy it all is!